Monday, 29 September 2008

Vegan MoFo

Because I don't have enough to do in October, I've signed up to participate in the Post Punk Kitchen's Vegan Month of Food. So I have a great excuse for all those 'what I ate for lunch' posts... :)

Dirty weekend

In the sense of getting my hands coated in lentil-burger mix, of course! The basic mix is about 50/50 lentils (soaked overnight and then boiled until they turn into a thick paste) and beans (from the freezer, given another boil to soften them up, then pounded with a potato masher. You could also do this with tinned beans.). I started out using just chickpeas, added white kidney beans at one stage because I had more of those in the freezer than I would use any time soon, and made a last batch of spicy burgers using red kidney beans. I think the chickpeas worked best in terms of holding the burgers together. I added various other ingredients - one batch of burgers had finely-chopped broccoli in, another grated carrot and the last lot just some paprika and tomato puree. This is one of those things that it is best to make in bulk - a lot of faff, not worth it for two burgers but certainly worth it for twenty. I now have two burgers for lunch today (with salad), four (burnt ones) in the fridge for use sometime this week and the rest frozen in packs of four for some other time when I feel like varying my diet a bit. I finished the burgers off by frying them, although if you were worried about fat content (lentils do absorb a lot of oil) you could try baking them. I may try egg replacer next time, due to falling-apart issues at various stages.

I have YET MORE LENTILS sitting in a sieve on my kitchen windowsill, allegedly sprouting although this is very much an experiment. I will not be devastated if I don't get to eat sprouted lentil salad at some point this week, really. I promise. (If this experiment does work, phase 2 will involve chickpeas. Everything in my life involves chickpeas at some point.)

I also did a batch of butter beans (all over the un-vegan names, d00d) and put some chickpeas on to soak until this evening. My bean saucepan is getting a lot of action. This might be because I've been eating Alpro yoghurts for breakfast most days since returning to work, meaning a whole new supply of yoghurt pots to freeze beans in.

Talking of the big saucepan... I've started collecting veg peelings and the like to make into stock. I don't have much idea if or how this will work yet, but if it gets a bit more use out of vegetable matter eventually destined for the trash (I live upstairs - no garden, hence no compost heap) it may be worth the faff. So far I have mostly carrot peelings and spring onion stalks.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

The mind boggles

A special dose of weirdness courtesy of Suicide Food, with a combination of a scary product and some brilliant satirical writing. Livestock transporters are fucking creepy, and as for chicken trucks... totally something you'd want a minature version of for your kids. Gawd, so much talk about how raising kids vegan messes them up, but so little about how normalising the taking of life in an imaginative range of ways and locations might do the job of warping the little dears a whole lot more efficiently.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Mind the beans

Dried beans have many good points. They're cheaper and easier to transport than tinned ones, and they take up less space in the freezer than tins do in the cupboard. And you know how long they were cooked for - I often find myself boiling tinned ones, particularly red, before use, having been reduced to a puking mess once before. Here, however, is what can happen if you don't cook them properly. If you do cook them properly - putting them on to soak one evening and boiling the next, changing the water at each step - you're fine.
A vegan diet is a normal diet - complete with normal risks!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Vitamin watch #1

A more 'serious' post is brewing in my brain and drafts folder. For now - apologies to anyone who objects to supermarkets or taking nutritional supplements - I just thought I'd share the news that Tesco are labelling which of their vitamins are vegan. (Vitamin C in particular is difficult to figure out without a label, since the orange flavour is often carried in beta-carotene which involves gelatin derived from fish. Nice.) I have what feels like the start of a cold, and which I am determined not to let evolve into the start of a constant stream of illness (and of snot) like it did last year when colds were just the respite periods between worse things. This will not be made any easier when term starts next week, as first-year lectures are like germ hypermarkets. So, although my diet does naturally contain a whole lot of vitamin C, I felt it necessary to buy a huge bottle of tablets for the weeks ahead and also a smaller one of echinacea pills. And avoiding animal derived stearates, gelatin, bone meal, etc is a major pain in the arse, so I'm always happy to see a manufacturer using vegan labels. I'll keep posting on this when my supply needs restocking.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Salad days are upon us again

So after the weekend of indulgence described in the last post (hey, forgot to mention scrambled tofu - might save that recipe until I'm short of stuff to post...), I'm back to the healthier end of things for a while. (Not that the moussaka was especially unhealthy, but I have no illusions that vegan cupcakes are any different from non-vegan ones in that regard!) I was, however, getting a little bit bored of lunches that always seemed to be focussed on raw (usually chopped) carrots - tasty and healthy though they might be, a wider range of tastes and textures is always good. So today I had a salad that did NOT involve carrots, or for that matter garden peas since these had also featured heavily over the past week.

Half an avocado, chopped
Half a tin of butter beans (200g)
One tomato, chopped
Two cloves of raw garlic

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
A few sprinkles of black pepper

Time off for bad behaviour

My moderately long-distance partner visited this past weekend, this being the first time we'd seen each other in a while for various reasons. It was a good weekend in many ways, some of which I don't feel like sharing on the internet. (For anyone who is still holding out for rude stuff on this blog, get a life or a new search engine...) A couple of things are worth noting, though, from a vegan point of view.

On Friday, I made moussaka for the first time ever.

Ingredients (Four servings - two for Friday night, one for my dinner after Gothling went home on Sunday, one to experiment with freezing stuff that has cheese sauce on):
-One aubergine (this is maybe the one thing that can't be substituted! Except maybe with sheets of lasagna, but that would still be a completely different meal)
-One packet of Redwood's cheating mince (would have been cheaper to use Realeat frozen mince or any brand of dried soy*, but this meal was meant to be a bit special.)
-One onion (red, but a white one would work just as well), chopped
-Two large carrots, chopped (could grate them if you have more than one grater or fancy washing the thing before doing the cheese sauce)
-About half a dozen mushrooms, chopped
-Enough sunflower oil to cook the above ingredients in
-Two tablespoons olive oil for the aubergines
-Black pepper, paprika and some dried mixed herbs.
-Quarter of a large tube of tomato puree (about 50g) (you may like to use less, I suspect I may generally go overboard with this, not least because it looks like pretty red knitting yarn when spurted around the pan)
-Half a block of Redwood's mozarella (any vegan cheese would do though - probably any brand, be it hard or cream or powder - but this happened to be what was in my fridge approaching its use-by date)
-One tablespoon each of margarine and cornflour
-Enough soymilk to make a fairly thick sauce

Equipment used
-Wok (or large saucepan you don't mind cooking stuff in oil in)
-Small saucepan
-Baking tray
-Cheese grater
-Two wooden spoons and a spatula
-Roll of greasproof paper (no, I did not use the whole thing! Jeez!)
-Large, fairly shallow ovenproof dish

-Slice the aubergine (slices about a centimetre thick)
-Place the slices on a baking tray or the grill pan (I was using an oven where the grill doesn't have a separate compartment), drizzled with olive oil. Grill until both sides of each slice are streaked with brown.
-Heat some oil in the wok. Add the mince and vegetables, and stir these together for a bit.
-Add the tomato puree, then pour in some warm water until the presence of liquid becomes obvious. Stir well and allow to simmer.
-While it is doing so, you will probably have time to get on with some other things around the house. (I didn't have much choice since they needed doing!) But what you absolutely NEED to do at this point is make the cheese sauce. To do this,
-Grate the cheese, if you're using the hard variety.
-Melt the margarine. Start it off at the highest notch on your stove, then turn the heat down when it starts to melt.
-Mix in the cornflour until all the margarine is absorbed.
-Add soymilk. Sauce should be fairly runny at this stage.
-Turn up the heat, stir the sauce CONSTANTLY. DON'T EVEN LOOK AWAY FOR A SECOND. EVEN IF YOUR NEIGHBOURS ARE SCRAMBLING AROUND ON THEIR ROOF. (Oh, is that just me?) Keep stirring until it starts to thicken.
-Add the cheese. Stir some more until it melts. If it gets too thick to be stirred easily, add more soymilk. (or water if you've run out of milk. It happens.) At this point, take it off the heat.
-Turn the oven on to 180 degrees centigrade/celsius.
-By this point, the liquid in the mince/vegetable component should be absorbed or evaporated and the aubergine slices should be nice and brown. Now is the time to put it all together!
-Take a large but fairly shallow ceramic dish. Spoon in a layer of filling, then place a layer of aubergine slices over the top. Repeat once. (but don't rinse yet) Top the whole thing with the cheese sauce, making sure some goes down the sides.
-Place the dish on a baking tray (makes it easier to handle later). Put it in the by now preheated oven, and leave it there for about half an hour. It's ready when the top is brown.

On Saturday we went for a very long walk involving dipping into the many and varied alternative/vintage/goth/totally random tat shops on Mansfield Road, and then doing some duck-spotting along the canal towpath. Between these two installments of walking, we stopped off at Dotty's cafe to fill up on sugar and caffiene. Dotty's doesn't have a website (yet?), but a map can be found here and the details are on Vegan Nottingham. It is basically a 50's-themed vegetarian cafe with the normal sort of food you'd expect plus a varying range of vegan cupcakes. In the evening we went to Sumac for some more food and vegan beer.

*Also, I hate using dry/rehydrated soy mince in the oven, as it re-dehydrates rather easily unless you drown it in liquid. I had a nasty experience with that when suffering from a throat infection and penicillin-induced vomiting, meaning that it scratched my throat on the way down and the way up. Delightful.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Just a quickie

If you have time or money to contribute to an animal sanctuary, Tower Hill Stables could really do with it.

Also, the term 'veganicity' exists elsewhere. Please note, I am not connected to them or they to me. (Although I've given them a link because a source of vegan vitamin supplements is always useful!) I don't sell or have any intention of selling vitamin pills or similar products, although I do buy them occasionally and sometimes offer high dose Vitamin C around my office in much the same manner as one might offer crisps, since dealing with large numbers of new students tends to be a great way of picking up all sorts of new coldy-things that then do the rounds several times before giving way to the next one... but that's sort of beside the point. And my namesakes, from what I see on their website, don't base their public personae on knitting, fun recipes or a fixation with ducks, so we're quite easy to tell apart. :) Also, in case anyone from there is reading, I do not use the name 'veganicity' in any commercial context. (Names I have used in semi-commercial contexts that haven't really got off the ground, and may use again: Purple Duck and Knitting Duck. Pretty distinctive really...)

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


I made this today. Would describe it as raw pesto, but purists might dislike the fact that I ate it with cooked (albeit subsequently cooled down for the benefit of the hemp oil) pasta.

Half a coffee mug of hemp oil (use sunflower - or olive if you prefer the taste - if you don't like the idea of eating lukewarm pasta)
Quarter of a coffee mug of chopped basil (fresh, not dried)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons cashew nuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped (you can leave this out if you or the person you're most likely to snog hate it)

Place the basil in the oil
Crush the pine nuts and cashew nuts with a mortar and pestle if you have one, otherwise stick them in a plastic bag and bash repeatedly with the rolling pin or similar object
Chop the garlic fairly small
Mix the nuts and garlic in with the oil and basil

Friday, 5 September 2008

MyJuice, Buttermarket, Ipswich


I went to meet a friend in Ipswich today. Since her working hours are more fixed than mine, this had to happen over lunch. Now, Ipswich isn't bristling with obvious places to get vegan food: my other lunches with this friend have been in, iirc, a (pretty decent) curry house and a pub. The Veggie Suffolk website lists one place, another curry house. There isn't a purely vegetarian cafe to hand, so until someone opens one there is an element of taking what you can get. MyJuice, while it doesn't have a huge range of vegan or any other food, certainly goes for quality in what it does have. I had 'My Vegan Delight' in panini form - this is basically falafel, hummus, avocado and some salad. You can also get it as a normal sandwich or a wrap, which I guess you'd end up doing if you got your lunch there every day just to vary things a bit. (Fyi, I think there were one or two vegetarian choices beyond this, plus one fish and two meat, so I didn't feel too discriminated against overall!) Drinks, however, are something this place has a huge range of - I think the various combinations of fruit and vegetable juices (and wheatgrass etc) took up three chalkboard menus, to the one small one occupied by food choices. Most of these seemed to be vegan. (I didn't ask whether you could get the milky ones with soy milk - might be worth a try) Prices are about what you'd expect - a panini and a drink came to about £7. (I think the panini might have been slightly cheaper!) The full address can be found on the website linked above, but basically it is right opposite Waterstones so that's the landmark if you need to ask directions.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Semi-raw satay salad dressing

'Semi' because I'm not sure if peanut butter counts. Since I'm not claiming to be a raw foodist anyway, that doesn't bother me. What matters in this instance is that the hemp oil didn't get messed up by heat. (I don't know whether it really goes toxic or how serious this is, but it certainly tastes vile when absentmindedly drizzled onto warm quinoa. You've been warned!)

Btw, if you are a raw vegan reading this and shaking your head over the peanut butter, is there anything that would work instead? I'd be interested to try it out, if so.

Ingredients (for one main meal serving of salad):
3 tablespoons of hemp oil
Juice of quarter of a lime (this made the sauce very lime-y, use less if that isn't your thing)
2 teaspoons peanut butter
A pinch each of chilli, cumin and ginger. (or use fresh versions grated)

Mix it all together in a cup. For some reason I find it easier to do this with two teaspoons held together. Then pour it on the salad of your choice.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Talking veganicity - forums

Readers who are especially sharp-eyed or looking for that sort of thing might have noticed that my sidebar contains a section called 'places to talk veganism'. The links basically do what it says on the tin. They are all places, broadly speaking, for vegans to talk about veganism. This does not mean they are all the same! So, for the benefit of anyone new to veganism in general or online veganism in particular, here's the lowdown...

Vegan Forum is the most active board I've found so far. Discussion tends to be at a civil and friendly level, with very little deliberate sh*t-stirring. Has a specific section for people who aren't quite vegan (although the expectation is that you'll get there sometime, preferably soon). This is generally my favourite online vegan hangout as it a) encompasses a wide range of discussion topics and b) seems to be about constructive discussion rather than points-scoring. If you're a new vegan finding your canvas-booted feet, this is the place I'd recommend.

Vegan Fitness, as the name suggests, is focussed on fitness, sports and exercise, with a vegan slant on things. My sometimes-enthusiastic and mostly half-arsed attitude to such things means that I welcome the encouragement you can get from such a place. It also has ethics, activism and general discussion sections. The best place to go to talk about nutrition, training diets and so on.

Vegan Freaks: abolitionist message board with probably the strictest screening process out of all the ones listed here. Can be fun and interesting, but not for the faint-hearted or anyone who isn't 100% sure of their commitment to veganism. Best place to go if you want tough love.

Vegan Represent: I don't hang out here as much, partly because it's quieter and partly because I signed up for it after becoming vaguely established in a couple of other places. Seems like a pretty good atmosphere, though.

Vegan Buddies: kind of quiet, but a good place to go if you're a new vegan wanting advice on certain matters, especially if you're scared your question will look 'stupid' on other forums. NOT the place to go if you like trashing less experienced vegans. (actually, neither is this - *sticks out tounge*)

There are also a number of yahoogroups. I haven't been on any of them long enough to review them, but expect a post at some point.

Salad for lunch!

Sort of a chunky coleslaw, I guess, except that I'd run out of mayo. (Plamil mayo is fairly easy to get - however, when I get some I tend to run through it fairly quickly, and not want to spend money replacing it right away. And I don't have easy access to a shop - even this one is a bit of a faff on the bus.) Anyway, the dressing ingredients I did have were just as good! Quantities here are for one person.

1 large carrot, chopped
Small piece of raw cabbage, shredded
A tablespoon each of sunflower seeds and pine nuts
Two cloves raw garlic, chopped VERY SMALL unless you are used to it or a masochist. (If you have never eaten raw garlic before in your life, try using one clove to start with.)

Hemp oil - about a quarter of a standard coffee mug. Less if you prefer your salad on the dry side or hate dealing with that little slick of oil in the bottom of a bowl.
A teaspoon of ginger
Two or three drops of soy sauce, added on impulse but it tasted ok.

Mix it all together in a bowl. Then eat it.

Monday, 1 September 2008

More additions to the sidebar

A post brought to you by the part of my brain that doesn't necessarily read other people's blogrolls all the way through, with a dash of diligence and an ounce of egoism (ie the idea that anyone might actually find these links interesting! If you do, feel free to suggest more...)

Firstly, recipes and food-related resources has a couple of new entries. Veg Out and Veggie Heaven are guides to finding vegetarian and vegan resturants. Each one covers a wide range of countries. I have also added Vegan Village, a noticeboard for all things vegan; and Lembas, a wholesale supplier of vegetarian and vegan wholefoods. Lembas will deliver bulk orders within a certain radius of Sheffield, and are worth contacting if a few people are up for clubbing together to buy this sort of thing in. (Feel free to comment or email if you know of a similar company anywhere else in the country!)

The sidebar also now contains a section called 'global veganicity'. (Currently between 'other resources' and the picture of an eyeshadow, fairly far down the sidebar) Between the various sites linked, you should find something relevant to where you live or are travelling to.

The other new section is 'local resources', currently occupying the space between 'recipes' and 'other resources'. Right now it only contains local websites dealing with the areas I know about: in other words, I can vouch for their usefulness because I've either used them or been a vegan in the area before they were a glint in their webmaster's eye. Again, feel free to recommend more sites like this.

Under 'places to talk veganism' I have added Vegan Buddies, a messageboard set up largely so new vegans can get support from more experienced ones. This is the place to go if you're new to veganism, don't know many vegans, or worry about looking 'silly' because you don't know certain things. It is categorically NOT the place to go if you enjoy lambasting less experienced vegans for not being perfect!

Last but not least, VegCom has been accommodated (see what I did there?) under 'other resources'. If you need accommodation or a flatmate/lodger/tenant/(here my imagination runs dry, which is probably for the best) then this is the place to advertise.

Rarebitting on

Welsh Rarebit!

Grated hard vegan cheese (In the UK that's Scheese or Cheezely - on this occasion the latter)
Margarine (in this instance Marks and Spencer dairy free - not the low-fat one, that goes weird when heated)
Cornflour (I have no cute little note to add to this)
Beer (optional - I used Co-op wheat beer, which says 'vegan' on the label. You only need a little bit, so make sure it is one where you can tolerate drinking the rest of the bottle/can!)
Soy milk (just a little) (You could probably use rice or oat milk instead - I've never tried)
Chilli powder, mustard, paprika, etc to taste
Bread (hey, nearly forgot that!)

- Put the bread under the grill, let the first side toast while you do everything else
- Grate the cheese
-Melt the margarine: use enough that it fills the bottom of the pan. Start off on full heat to get it going, but turn the heat down as soon as it starts to melt. Otherwise it goes manky.
- SLOWLY mix the cornflour into the margarine, until it is all absorbed.
- Add grated cheese - there should be as much of this as there is of the existing flour/marg mixture.
- Stir until cheese starts to melt
- Add beer until the mixture turns into a smooth paste
- Add a bit of milk, but not too much. Just enough to make the mixture creamy.
- Add spices if you like that sort of thing
- Spread it on the un-toasted side of the bread and put back under the grill for a couple of minutes

You could also add a dash of worcester sauce - Life and Biona both do vegetarian ones that are available in most health food stores and Tesco if you go there. (A lot of worcester sauce, including Lea and Perrins, has anchovies in. Fishy business...)